Influential People – the Gatekeeper

Patricia Boutinard-Rouelle: Chosen for her daring vision and influence in programming
November 1, 2003

France 3 isn’t the biggest player in its territory, but when it comes to doc programming, it has taken the lead, thanks in large part to the efforts of Patricia Boutinard-Rouelle, France 3′s head of documentaries.

It was Boutinard-Rouelle who spearheaded Species Odyssey, an innovative non-fiction production about Earth’s first humans that was one of the year’s most spectacular success stories. She recognized that France 3 needed to take a chance with its doc programming if it was going make a mark in primetime, and she embraced the use of fiction techniques in the production as a way to take non-fiction in a new direction.

It was a risk, because the approach runs counter to the strong tradition of auteur docs in France, but the gamble paid off. Not only did the film draw a huge audience (one third of all viewers in France, a record-breaking achievement), it paved the way for more primetime doc slots on France 3 and more creative commissions. Perhaps most importantly to producers, Species Odyssey‘s success also gave Boutinard-Rouelle the ability to throw her support behind more expensive projects.

Producer Fred Fougea of Paris-based prodco Boréales says he encountered no difficulties when he presented her with the US$4.1 million estimated budget for Sapiens Odyssey, the follow-up program to Species Odyssey. ‘For France 3, the real challenge is to have something on primetime that is very original and strong,’ says Fougea. France 3 is the lead broadcaster for Sapiens Odyssey, though it will not finance the program exclusively.

Boutinard-Rouelle is also open to experimenting with other styles, including reality formats and docusoaps – anything that will bring new energy to the form. As she told RealScreen earlier this year, ‘We are at the start of a revolution. Documentary will become more and more popular, if we make the effort.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.